Clearing the Space: Summer, Schedules, and Embracing Simplicity

It’s that time of year. Summer is breathing down my neck. Last week it hit me that I have less than ten school days until all four boys are home on break. THAT IS LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AWAY. Why didn’t anyone warn me?!?

While I love so much of what summer brings (cooking out, family outings, zoo days, and time at the pool), the lack of routine also creates new anxieties—especially as a work-from-home mom and a creative. During summer, my time and energy has even less margin than normal. I find myself looking at the calendar and whispering, “Oh, sweet Jesus, help me.”

I’ve been mentally calculating how I will do all the things. How will I be present for my kids, to enjoy squirt gun fights in the backyard and trips to the library? How will I manage summer sports and toddler naps while also setting boundaries on screen time? Oh, and then there are these little things out there called “I’m Writing a Book that Isn’t Finished” and “I Have a Blog I Want to Maintain” and “I’d Love to Do More Speaking and Teaching.” No big deal (she says while growing sweaty…).

But then I came across an idea. On the Girls Talking Life podcast (Episode #16), Megan Ericson—co-host of the minimalist moms podcast—talked about how minimalism is essentially cleaning the slate. It’s removing all the things and then intentionally putting the things that have meaning and add value back in. When you apply this principle to a home, you remove all the furniture and the decorations and the technology, and then very thoughtfully weigh each item and decide whether it’s worth putting it back in the room. It’s a question not only of design but also of values. Does this [fill in the blank] enhance my life and promote our family’s priorities?

On the podcast, Megan talked about how she and her husband also applied these principles to their family schedule, how they went through a “season of quitting.” In essence, they cleared their calendars and their obligations and decided what commitments they wanted to put back in. And as a result, they were able to experience life a little simpler, a little smoother, and in line with what they valued most.

Brilliant, right?!?! I jumped all over that concept. This summer, I will be taking a cue from Megan. Very soon (likely this weekend), Ben and I will sit down with our calendars and our established family values and wipe the slate clean. We’ll take out all the “shoulds”—all the things we feel external pressure to do or be—and then intentionally decide how to spend our time this summer.

And when it comes to my work-from-home life, I have already started to clear the space and contemplate what I want to put back in. After some prayer and reflection, here are the two big things I’m returning to the room:

  • Quality time with my boys (including MANY days at the pool)

  • Moving forward with publishing my book

In order to do that, I am going to be scaling back on my blog and social media presence come June 1. I’m not getting rid of those things entirely, but I’m essentially going to pack them up in rubber tubs and let them sit in storage for a bit—kind of like my Christmas decor. Everything has its season.

I will still post on occasion. I will still speak here and there when it fits. Rigidity never sits well with me. But already I am finding such freedom in focusing on less this summer.

Whether you’re also a parent feeling daunted by summer break or you’re simply a human feeling like your calendar is cluttered by too much, I encourage you to consider clearing the space. Wipe away all the “shoulds” and prayerfully consider what is truly good and from God. Ask Him to help you intentionally reclaim your time and your energy so you can be present and full and engaged with what you put back in the room. If you need permission to say no, this is it. You’re welcome.

While summer has its challenges, it also is ripe with possibility, with potential sacred moments and evolving memories. Let’s not miss it because we let our schedules get too cluttered or because we’re trying to do all the things with strength we don’t possess. Let’s keep summer simple. Are you with me?